Who is “fit” to provide enterprise apps?

July 4, 2008 Appirio

Narinder Singh

The SaaS blogosphere has been abuzz these last couple of days discussing Sergey Solyanik’s assessment that Google’s culture is “not fit” for enterprise apps. We’ll say up front that Appirio runs our internal communication and collaboration using Google Apps, and have helped customers big and small do the same. We have been highly impressed with the quality, reliability, and rate of innovation in these tools, admire and respect the culture that created them, and have no hesitation calling them “enterprise ready.”

But we think that with all this talk about Google’s corporate culture, people are missing the real point—the culture of today’s traditional on-premise technology vendors is no longer “enterprise ready.”

Let me explain– we believe that there is a cultural mismatch between the needs of today’s businesses and the cultures of traditional on-premise technology providers:

Today’s business needs agility, the culture of enterprise technology is anything but. As the global pace of change accelerates, business leaders need their IT staff and SI/ISV partners to be saying a lot more “yes” and a lot less “no.” It is no longer acceptable for an IT partner to make vague promises about a release 3 years out. When a CIO asked Hasso Plattner at the Churchill Club’s SaaS debate when he should move to SAP’s SaaS solutions, he was told to check back in “5 years, at least.” Is that what it means to have an “enterprise ready” culture?

Today’s business needs openness, the culture of enterprise technology is anything but. Traditional enterprise vendors have in their very DNA the idea that openness is dangerous to their business models. Businesses in all industries have accepted the notion of core vs. context—you focus on what you are good at and rely on seamless connections with a network of partners to provide the rest of your solution. Ironically, traditional enterprise software is one of the last industries to embrace this change. One of Hasso Plattner’s key lessons from SAP’s ill-fated experiment with SaaS is that “what is inside the system has to have a coverage level which is close to 100 percent,” he says. Openness will be there in name only—the intention is that everything you need is inside the system. Such a system has never existed, and never will. Is this what it means to have an “enterprise ready” culture?

So what does it mean to have an “enterprise-ready” culture? Of course, every traditional enterprise vendor wants to be agile and open, and many have made admirable strides in that direction, including SAP through its Developer Community and eSOA initiatives. And there is much more required to deliver enterprise solutions than agility and openness. There are the table stakes of reliability, security, and having a solution that meets a real business need. But today’s business requires IT partners with a culture that can do both– be deeply rooted in agility and openness while delivering reliability, security, and business value. We think that Google and salesforce.com, the leaders in on-demand, have achieved this goal: Salesforce offers both trust.salesforce.com AND ideas.salesforce.com. Google offers highly innovative applications that scale like no traditional enterprise application will ever be able to.

But whether or not you agree with us that Google’s corporate culture is “enterprise ready,” the real point is that its traditional on-premise competitors are most certainly not.

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